In the cartoon “A snowman Confronts A Mother,” Liza Donnelly employs rhetorical question, symbolism, and association to demean society about subconscious gender bias. This cartoon was published on February 16th, 2015. In FineArtAmerica, Liza Donnelly mentions that this cartoon was about a snowman confronted by a mother, as “she puts a top hat on it”.
Donnelly’s usage of rhetorical question reflects her criticism of the patriarchal society. The underlined noun, “man” in the rhetorical question, highlights Donnelly’s message to her audience: the unconscious discrimination towards male and female. This is because, in the cartoon, the snowman asks why society assumes that it is a snowman, not a snowwoman. The fact that our world makes this inference about gender demonstrates the unintentional gender assumptions that individuals make. Moreover, society’s assumption that the ice figure was a male (not a female) also reflects the male-dominated world, where we habitually value men more than women. Therefore, the name “snowman” has included “man,” not “woman.” On the other hand, Donnelly’s utilization of the rhetorical question forces the audience to think about why society has been calling snowman, not snowwomen. Since readers have also generally used the word “snowman,” the cartoonist uses pathos to make the audience feel guilty because readers feel as if they have also been part of this gender bias.
The symbolism and metaphor of the snowman reflect how society simply tolerates the issue of gender inequality without taking action to change. A snowman is an inhuman observer that is not able to make individual choices. The act of how snowman just accepts the hat and scarf (without a choice) shows how society accepts gender injustice without much thought. Since individuals are not taking measures to stop by improving or solving the issue of gender inequality, this issue prevails. Moreover, the setting of this panel is set in the snow. This coldness and the black and white color represent the numbness of society to gender bias. On the other hand, when there is a change in weather, snowman melt. However, in the negative space of this panel, there is a continuous fall of snow that reflects how Donnelly thinks the snow will not melt soon, indicating that the snowman and gender inequality will continue to be present. Donnelly’s utilization of symbolism of snowman makes it easier for the audience to understand the cartoonist’s meaning as a snowman is a figure that is fully understood.
Moreover, snowman have an association to innocence and childhood because it is usually childhood who build snowman- the indifferent human figure- that accepts gender bias. Hence, Donnelly utilizes this association to address how starting from a young age, individuals are exposed to this unconscious gender inequality. Consequently, when young people get influenced by this inequality, it worsens the situation because it creates a certain life that continues to worsen gender discrimination. Through the association with snowman, it provides readers a deeper meaning of the cartoon.
Through the use of rhetorical question, symbolism, and the association of snowman, Donnelly addresses the problem of gender bias. Despite doing an effective way of criticizing society about unconscious gender injustice, Donnelly’s chosen text type (cartoon) over-simplifies the complexity of this issue. This may mislead readers since the issue of gender bias is not easily solved or addressed. To resolve this problem, Donnelly could have used more logos and ethos throughout her work. This can add credibility to the cartoon, allowing the audience to believe the cartoonist’s text and realize the severity and complexity of gender bias.
Donnelly, Liza. “A Snowman Confronts a Mother.” Fine Art America, 2016, fineartamerica.com/featured/a-snowman-confronts-a-mother-liza-donnelly.html. Accessed 30 Mar. 2021.